Saturday 20 October 2018

Trump says he and Leo Varadkar have become 'fast friends' as Taoiseach pushes for deal for 'undocumented'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock as Melania Trump looks on during the annual presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock as Melania Trump looks on during the annual presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) attend the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrive at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Jason O'Brien in Washington

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has said he is now "fast friends" with Leo Varadkar, despite only meeting him for the first time on Thursday.

At the traditional handover of the shamrock at the White House, Mr Trump said he looked forward to the Taoiseach's return next year and "for seven more years", another indication that he will seek re-election.

Mr Varadkar used the occasion to again highlight the plight of the undocumented Irish, and to once again push the possibility of a reciprocal exchange of various rights that would effect Americans who want to live in Ireland.

Neither leader took questions, ensuring that Mr Varadkar's earlier comments about making a call to Clare County Council after Mr Trump raised concerns about a wind farm near his golf club in Doonbeg were not clarified.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump makes a speech as (left to right) Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Melania Trump, US Vice-President Mike Pence and Karen Pence look on at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

"Taoiseach, I'll tell you, we've become friends -- fast friends -- over a short period of time," Mr Trump told a group of a couple of hundred people, including Irish politicians and senior White House staff including the Vice President Mike Pence. The First Lady was also present, unlike last year.

"I look forward to your return next year," he added. "In fact, we'll see you for about, what? Seven more years, I think. Right? Right? About seven. That's sort of an interesting concept. Right? That's what is going to be.

"But I do look forward to your return. I look forward to you being here anytime you want -- and that includes you, folks. This is a very, very special group of people, and a very, very special place, Ireland."

Among those in the audience of the East Room was the President's adviser Kellyanne Conway, and his former press secretary Sean Spicer.

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania attend the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania attend the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Spicer joked that "I was wrangling today" but said he hadn't yet spoken to the president.

Mr Varadkar, meanwhile, said that any deal on immigration would be reciprocal between the US and Ireland.

"President Trump and I met earlier and I believe by talking and listening we both learned things that will help our two countries move forward," he said.

"I know that the Irish people who have made their lives here, including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock as Melania Trump looks on during the annual presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock as Melania Trump looks on during the annual presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC, USA. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

"I want to assure you, Mr. President, that the Irish Government will continue to work with your Administration to find a solution to this important issue. And we are willing to match any move with the same or better for Americans in Ireland."

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